Why do we say "He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.

Well-Known Expressions

He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword

Meaning:

Those who view war/violence as a solution to their problems will likely die a violent death

Background:

This proverb traces to the play The Death of Robert, Earl of Huntington by English dramatist Anthony Munday (1601).

Robert, Earl of Huntington is one of a number of people who historians think may have been the basis for the legendary character of Robin Hood.  The evidence for the Earl of Huntington being "Robin Hood" traces to references by the likes of Anthony Munday and to Thomas Gale (1697-1702) who left in his papers words that were supposed to have been from the grave of Robin Hood, and recorded his death as being in 1247. 

Hear undernead this (dis) laitl stean/Lais Robert Earl of Huntington (Huntingtun)/Nea arcir ver as hie sae geud/An pipl kauld im Robin Heud/Sick utlaws as hi an is men/vil England nivr si agen.
(Here underneath this little stone/Lies Robert Earl of Huntington/No archer was as he so good/And people called him Robin Hood/Such outlaws as he and his men/Will England never see again). 


A similar epitaph is published at the end of The True Tale of Robin Hood by Martin Parker (1632), which gives the date of death as 1198 (at the end of the reign of King Richard "The Lionheart")

Robert Earle of Huntington/Lies under this little stone./No archer was like him so good;/His wildnesse named him Robbin Hood./Full thirteene yeares, and something more,/These northerne parts he vexed sore./Such out-lawes as he and his men/May England never know agen.

Alphabetical list of expressions

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